Siege of Gifu Castle
Date: 8/23 of Keichō 5 (1600)
Location: Gifu Castle and its environs in Mino Province
Synopsis: In one of many conflicts preceding the Battle of Sekigahara, Oda Hidenobu crafted a plan to stop the Eastern Army from taking over his base at Gifu Castle, but the plan depended upon reinforcements that failed to materialize in time. After the Eastern Army laid siege to the castle, he surrendered after just one day and entered the priesthood.
The Siege of Gifu Castle occurred on 8/23 of Keichō 5 (1600) at Gifu Castle in Mino Province. This conflict was waged between the Eastern and Western armies as a preliminary clash to the main Battle of Sekigahara on 9/15 of Keichō 5 (1600). As the Eastern forces headed from Owari Province into Mino Province, as described below, several other clashes occurred leading up to the Siege of Gifu Castle.
On 8/21, forces of the Eastern Army began to traverse the Kiso River, with Fukushima Masanori leading one division from downstream in Ogoshi and Ikeda Terumasa leading another division from upstream in Kōda. Other forces traversed the Gōdo River in Mino. Together, these events are known as the Battle of Kisogawa-Gōdogawa.
On 8/22, the two armies engaged in two separate clashes on the same day, known as the Battle to Traverse Kōda-Kisogawa and the Battle of Komeno. Taking advantage of its numerical superiority, in both events, the Eastern Army overcame the defensive efforts of the Western Army en route toward Gifu Castle.
Course of events
As the Eastern Army marched on the Tōkaidō, Oda Hidenobu, with a fief of 130,000 koku in Gifu, established defensive positions in several locations centered around Gifu Castle in Mino Province. This was likely because he could not ascertain at which location the Eastern Army would traverse the Kiso River. As a result, his forces had to be dispersed.
Meanwhile, Ikeda Terumasa attempted to overcome the enemy by consolidating his military forces. At dawn on 8/22 of Keichō 5 (1600), battalions of the Eastern Army led by Ikeda Terumasa advanced from Kōda in the Haguri District of Owari to an area near Kōdajima in the Haguri District of Mino and then crossed the Kiso River. The Oda army, fighting for the Western Army, responded with an infantry battalion in a clash known as the Battle to Traverse Kōda-Kisogawa. After successfully traversing the Kiso River, in the afternoon of 8/22, the forces of the Eastern Army engaged in a violent clash against a division of 3,000 troops including Dodo Tsunaie at the village of Komeno in the Haguri District of Mino. This event was known as the Battle of Komeno. The soldiers from the Eastern Army overran their position. Oda Hidenobu responded by deploying himself, intercepting the Eastern Army at Injiki in the Haguri District in Mino, but fled in defeat to Gifu Castle.
Coming from the Nakashima District in Owari Province, Fukushima Masanori attempted to traverse the Kiso River but encountered stiff resistance from the Western Army so was compelled to head south downstream, crossing the river from Higashikaganoi, and, after passing by the old Kaganoi Castle, heading north to surround Takegahana Castle. The lord of the castle, Sugiura Shigekatsu, attempted to resist but Mōri Hiromori (the lord of Hikami Castle) upon whom he was depending for reinforcements surrendered to Fukushima Masanori so Shigekatsu also surrendered, leading to the fall of Takegahana Castle. This is known as the Siege of Takegahana Castle of Keichō 5.
Under one theory, the army led by Ikeda Terumasa and the army led by Fukushima Masanori were supposed to attempt crossings of the Kiso River at the same time by using smoke signals. However, the Ikeda army preceding the Fukushima army owing to provocations by the Western forces in addition to being guided by Nonogaki Genbei, a powerful local fighter.
The Ikeda and Fukushima armies converged and established an encampment in a flood plain of the Arata River (a major tributary of the Kiso River) to the south of Gifu Castle.
On the evening of 8/22, having been cornered, Hidenobu made requests to Ōgaki Castle and Inuyama Castle for reinforcements. Pending the arrival of reinforcements, he holed-up in Gifu Castle, devising a plan to launch in coordination with the reinforcements a pincer attack against the Eastern Army forces. After gathering in Gifu Castle, the residual forces from among his retainers, some voiced opinions to simply hold-out in the castle, but Hidenobu ordered each bushō to strengthen their defenses of Gifu Castle along with its auxiliary sites including Inabayama fortress, Gongenyama fortress, Zuiryōji fortress, and the entrance to Gifu Castle. Hidenobu and Oda Hidenori took-up their position in Gifu Castle, while, among others, Tsuda Saburō, Kozukuri Nagamasa, and Dodo Tsunaie set-up four positions on the trailhead leading to Gifu Castle, dispersing the military power.
At dawn on 8/23, the Eastern Army kept a watch out for reinforcements from Inuyama or Ōgaki castles, while, in the Kakami District to the east, Yamauchi Kazutoyo, Arima Toyouji, Togawa Michiyasu, Horio Tadauji set-up in the villages of Shinkanō, Nagatsuka, and Furuichiba. To the west, Hidenobu ordered Tanaka Yoshimasa, Tōdō Takatora, Kuroda Nagamasa to establish positions across the river in the Katagata District.
In the morning of 8/23, an assault against Zuiryōji fortress led by Asano Yukinaga marked the outbreak of hostilities. Next, Ii Naomasa launched attacks against Inabayama and Gongenyama fortresses, while Fukushima Masanori charged the castle from the side of the trailhead so that Gifu Castle was completely surrounded.
At this time, the reinforcements from Inuyama Castle on which Hidenobu depended did not materialize. Ishikawa Sadakiyo, the lord of Inuyama Castle, along with Inaba Sadamichi, Inaba Norimichi, Inaba Masamichi, Katō Sadayasu, Seki Kazumasa, and Takenaka Shigekado holed-up in the castle, but, in secret, he had sent a letter to Ii Naomasa of the Eastern Army and promised to collude. Mitsunari and additional troops from Ōgaki Castle headed toward Gifu Castle, but, while attempting to cross the Kiso River, were intercepted by Tōdō Takatora and Kuroda Nagamasa, causing them to flee in defeat so that, with the situation reversed, the Eastern Army attacked the fleeing forces to Tarui and Akasaka.
At Gifu Castle, with the exception of the inner citadel, all was captured by the Eastern Army. Hidenobu resisted to the end, but only several tens of soldiers remained against a vastly superior force on the side of the Eastern Army. Having acknowledged defeat, Hidenobu attempted to take his own life, but was persuaded by Ikeda Terumasa and a retainer, Kozukuri Nagamasa, to surrender to the Eastern Army instead. In this manner, Gifu Castle fell in just one day. After surrendering, Hidenobu went down the mountain and, at the Jōsen Temple in Kamikanō, underwent the rites of tonsure. After the Battle of Sekigahara, he moved to Mount Kōya near Kyōto.
Ishida Mitsunari, the leader of the Western Army, did not expect that Gifu Castle would fall in just one day. As a result, the response was too late, compelling him to alter his strategy.